A continuing series from my Top 20 Cards from Eldritch Moon, this is a column that I'm going to make for each set between the final spoiler and Prerelease weekend. Before diving in, let's take a look back from last set and see how I've done so far. Remember these rankings are for the entirety of their Standard life, and the individual cards may see a fluctuation of value during that time.
Overall I'm quite happy with the list I made, especially the top of it. Standard turned into Collected Company vs. Emrakul, the Promised End, and I think having Emrakul at number one over Elder Deep-Fiend was a hit, even though it was controversial at the time. I was also spot-on about Spell Queller and Liliana, the Last Hope, the latter of which had plenty of doubters. Finally Gisela, the Broken Blade and Decimator of the Provinces were cards I was much lower on than most, and still am.
There were just so many powerful cards in Eldritch Moon that I missed some of the better ones, most notably Ishkanah, Grafwidow, which has proven to be one of the best cards in the set. The other card I regret not having on the list is Collective Defiance, which I thought might not see as much play because of how weak red was at the time, but I did not realize how powerful a burn strategy would be.
Although he appeared on the list, I was too low on Grim Flayer and realized it immediately in testing as my Week 1 deck of G/B Delirium was built around him. Finally, I was much too high on Foul Emissary, who has not seen more play because of how badly he matches up against Liliana, the Last Hope.
As an aside, the five fastlands will not be appearing on my list. Botanical Sanctum and the rest will absolutely see more Standard play than any other card in the set, because of the nature of lands in the game, but I didn't want to put them together at number one or have five spots for them individually, so I am just omitting them.
With the Eldritch Moon list being a success overall, let's see what I think will be the Top 20 cards for Standard from Kaladesh!
20. Cultivator's Caravan
Cultivator's Caravan is quite an interesting card, as it's a mana rock that can be Crewed to turn into a large 5/5 creature. I could see this card being quite the role-player in three- or four-color Emerge decks as a way to fix mana and count as another card type for delirium. The synergy with Ishkanah, Grafwidow is particularly exciting, as Cultivator's Caravan can help you curve from three to five and cast the legendary Spider a turn earlier, while the Ishkanah or the three tokens can Crew the Caravan. Cultivator's Caravan is also a good card to emerge in the late-game if you have the ability to Crew it and make it a creature first.
19. Veteran Motorist
Having scry 2 attached to an aggressive creature is quite the bonus, as the traditional bane of aggro decks is drawing too many or two few lands and Veteran Motorist helps to smooth your draw steps while putting a serious clock on your opponent. The additional bonus when Crewing a Vehicle helps out with only having one toughness and not being able to survive many creatures in combat.
A good sideboard card in most formats, but I could see a world where Fragmentize even sees maindeck play. It's hard to know the exactly how many Vehicles will be driving around in Standard or if a R/W "artifacts matter" aggro deck will materialize, but it's possible that we are in for maindeck Fragmentizes.
17. Lathnu Hellion
Lathnu Hellion is a wonderful addition to red aggro decks, and I expect it to see plenty of play, even outside of dedicated Energy decks. A 4/4 haste for three is way above the curve, but it comes at the cost of having to sacrifice it in your end step unless you pay two Energy. All you really want with Lathnu Hellion is to hit your opponent once; anything more than that is a bonus.
The first Vehicle on the list, Fleetwheel Cruiser hits hard and doesn't need a creature to Crew it the first time it enters the battlefield. Will we see a deck with Lathnu Hellion, Fleetwheel Cruiser, and Impetuous Devils? Maybe adding Reality Smasher? It would be too hasty to say “no” right now.
15. Saheeli Rai
Our first planeswalker on the list, Saheeli Rai is unique and difficult to evaluate. Three-mana planeswalkers have traditionally been powerhouses in Standard, but it's hard to tell if Saheeli will be as well. The best comparison I can make is to Ajani, Caller of the Pride, as the minus abilities of the two cards are similar in the way they pressure the opponent. A big negative that Saheeli has going against her is that she is multicolored, which will limit the decks that she will be able to be in.
Filigree Familiar is a nice value role-player that can slot into many decks. Besides being a nice sideboard option against aggro decks, the little Fox is a perfect emerge and Eldritch Evolution enabler. If the 2/2 body matches well against different threats in the format, which doesn't look to be the case as of now, then this ranking may be too low.
Five mana has traditionally been expensive for a sweeper, but being able to gain life from Fumigate is big deal and will push Fumigate to be Standard's go-to sweeper. One thing that could hold Fumigate back is the introduction of Vehicles into the format, and it will be interesting to see how effective sorcery-speed removal will be now.
12. Noxious Gearhulk
Noxious Gearhulk is my personal favorite of the Gearhulk cycle, and I really want to abuse the card with the help from Eldrazi Displacer. The only reason why Noxious Gearhulk is this low is that it is hard to build a deck full of six-mana creatures, and because of that, I'm not sure exactly how much play it will see.
Nissa, Vital Force looks to be a classic sideboard card for midrange decks, as her plus ability is great at putting pressure on an opponent and the minus is useful in returning another threat from the graveyard. I think the ultimate is a trap and will only be useful a very small amount of the time, as using the other two abilities will generally be a better way to end the game.
Talk about a card I want to use with Eldrazi Displacer! I'm not sure where Skysovereign, Consul Flagship will fit in Standard, and it's facing heavy competition at the five-drop slot from other mythics in the format, but the card is powerful and the (literal) Flagship of the set, so I'm not counting it out. I do wish a flying city had more power than an Ovalchase Dragster, but I'm still a fan.
9. Inventor's Apprentice
This rating could be a little aggressive, like the card, but Inventor's Apprentice will be a big part of an aggressive "artifacts matter" deck if it materializes. The third point of toughness is key to be able to survive the cheap sweepers of the format, Kozilek's Return and Flaying Tendrils.
Harnessed Lightning is one of the best removal spells in the set, especially in a deck that has other Energy enablers and payoffs. I love the versatility of the card, as you are able to choose how much Energy you want to spend to deal damage to a creature, and I expect Harnessed Lightning to become a staple removal spell for red.
Although powerful, this creature is no Tragic Arrogance, as your opponent is allowed to choose which of each type of permanent they would like to keep. Add this to the wealth of options to choose from for five-mana creatures, and I'm pretty skeptical of how highly I rated this one. It's not necessarily a good card if you are ahead or at parity, and even if you're behind, your opponent still gets to keep their best permanents. The power level is high enough for it to be here, but still I'm skeptical.
It's been a while since we've had a decent counterspell in Standard, but I expect Revolutionary Rebuff to be an automatic four-of in blue control decks. Although paying two mana instead of three like Mana Leak is easier for opponents, and not being able to counter an artifact such as a Gearhulk is a downside, I still think Revolutionary Rebuff will see plenty of Standard play.
Scrapheap Scrounger is a solid card that can fit into a variety of decks, which helps it earn a top-five spot on the list. Most obviously good in an aggressive deck, Scrapheap Scrounger also has extra synergies by being an artifact. Although the card itself can't block, it can Crew a Vehicle if the defense is needed. Finally, a self-mill strategy can use Scrapheap Scrounger to help return Prized Amalgams to the battlefield.
4. Smuggler's Copter
My pick for the most-played Vehicle of the set, Smuggler's Copter is aggressively costed at only two mana and a Crew size of one. Add on evasion and a sizable body and you have card that would already see a good amount of play, but that's not all. Smuggler's Copter also has card selection added in, as you get to loot every time it attacks or blocks. Smuggler's Copter can allow cheap value creatures to have a big impact in combat.
3. Aether Hub
The first two cards on this list were easy to pick out, but where to go from there was much harder. Aether Hub is a critical addition to the format that's necessary if the Eldrazi from Oath of the Gatewatch will see play. Besides that, Aether Hub is a wonderful land for Energy-based strategies, or even decks with just a couple of Energy cards, as getting an Energy counter from an untapped land will be very beneficial.
If this list was just about power level alone, then Chanda, Torch of Defiance would be a clear number one, but I'm afraid that Chandra won't have enough support around her to allow her to shine. She is too good and versatile to count out, though, and I wouldn't be surprised in the least if she should have been number one all along. Battle for Zendikar block did not offer much for red decks and it's possible she will be even better after the next couple of sets are released.
Verdurous Gearhulk will be the premier top-end threat of green midrange decks. Having four +1/+1 counters to distribute amongst your team as you choose can make combat almost impossible for your opponent. Verdurous Gearhulk is the real deal, and combined with the power level of the green cards from other sets, expect to see plenty of Verdurous Gearhulks cast during this Standard format.
Comments from Last Week
I'm finishing the article this week by highlighting some of the comments from last week's article, Decks for Future Standard with Kaladesh, where I discussed some of my initial findings of Kaladesh as a set and the new Standard format. If you would like to be featured in next week's Comments from Last Week section, then leave a question or comment below and be sure to come back next week to see if you made the cut!
Hi Todd, awesome article. I was just thinking that with the Humans theme, it would be great to add two or three Sigarda, Heron's Grace. She turns [cards in] the graveyard into Humans. She protects Humans from burn, and she is tough enough to require at least two burn spells to take her down. As a bonus, Emrakul and other Eldrazis' annoying effects will be thwarted, especially with all these Eldrazi Ramp decks running rampant... What's not to like?
Also, in a deck like this, Repel the Abominable would be insane. Especially against Kozilek's Return.
- Hector Javier Rosas
Out of all of those abilities, I do really like how Sigarda, Heron's Grace gives you hexproof and doesn't allow Emrakul, the Promised End to Mindslaver you, but overall I believe there are better options at the five-drop slot currently in Standard. Archangel Avacyn does a fine job protecting your team from a Kozilek's Return, and Verdurous Gearhulk can get a creature or two out of range of the Kozilek's Return. Repel the Abominable is either a ten or a zero when you have it, but when it is good, it can be a huge blowout.
I've been considering a midrange G/W Humans deck with Gideon, Ally of Zendikar instead of Tamiyo, Field Researcher. Hamlet Captain over Duskwatch Recruiter, more Always Watching, four Thraben Inspectors, and possibly Heron's Grace Champion main. I fear the Humans' weakness to flying Spirits, though.
- Nathan Lothamer
I like the idea of G/W as well, but I'm not sure if playing Humans will be better than a more traditional take on Tokens. I'm ready to start brewing up some decks to battle for this new Standard format, though!
Next up is #SCGINDY, which will be the first time we will see Kaladesh in action on the big stage. Which cards am I over- or underrating? I already can't wait to start brewing up new decks!